Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 1, 2009

KRISTOL'S PLAN FOR KOREA.... In light of North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests, international leaders are pondering how best to proceed, weighing a series of unsatisfying options. On Fox News yesterday, Bill Kristol presented the same idea he always presents when faced with a national security challenge.

Kristol explained, "I don't rule out the possibility of us deciding -- and I think it might be wise for us to decide -- to knock out a few. They're apparently rolling a long-term missile to a base to test another one, long-range missile to test another one. You know, it might be worth doing some targeted air strikes to show the North Koreans, instead of always talking about, 'Gee, there could be consequences,' to show that they can't simply keep going down this path."

Brit Hume, on the same program, endorsed Kristol's proposal, but said he "can't imagine" the Obama administration actually launching a military strike on North Korea. (They follow Newt Gingrich, who began urging strikes in April, calling on the administration to use "lasers" to attack North Korea.)

Matt Yglesias noted, "Kristol doesn't even attempt to say what he thinks this will accomplish. He just kind of tosses it out there for no reason because arguing that the United States should start wars is what he does."

I'd just add that as the situation in North Korea grows even more serious, there will likely be others making arguments similar to Kristol and Hume. Indeed, a Rasmussen poll a few weeks ago found 57% of respondents in favor of "a military response to eliminate North Korea's missile launching capability."

Now, I find those results dubious -- the question wasn't worded especially well -- but if conservative pundits are going to start touting the idea, let's remember just how bad an idea this is. A preemptive military strike would instigate a rather dramatic regional conflict, involving South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia. "Some targeted air strikes," as Kristol put it, would likely lead to a counter-strike on, say, Seoul and Tokyo.

Kristol, Hume, and Gingrich have the right to make all kinds of wacky suggestions, but that doesn't mean they deserve to be taken seriously.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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I am baffled. Why does anyone listen to anything Kristol says? He has been wrong about everything for 20 years. Everything. So why is he still on television and in newspapers telling us stuff? Why does anyone listen to or read him?

Weird. But, then, I have the same question about George Will.

I guess they're both tools of the Ruling Cabal, and thus, get a platform no matter how ridiculous giving them a platform may be.

Posted by: LL on June 1, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Unlike Iran, North Korea pretty much is run by a bunch of certifiable crazies who don't have a big problem with widespread death and destruction of their own citizenry. So yeah. Let's provoke them. Can't we just send Kristol and his buddies back to repeat junior high and hope they get it right this time?

Posted by: paul on June 1, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

The real issue is what Obama plans to do with North Korea this time. While everyone lauded Carter's Agreed Framework, it's now obvious the North Koreans never had any intentions of living up to its end of the bargain. North Korea went about their nuclear and ballistic missile programs as if they never signed any agreement to the contrary.

The North Koreans simply can't be trusted. So what is this organization going to do?

Of course, Kristol trotted out a military option simply to poke a finger in Obama's eye: he and the rest of the world know full well Obama won't sanction any sort of military response against the North Koreans.

Problem is, Pyongyang is fully aware of this and will do as it pleases knowing the West, mainly the U.S., won't do anything except plead for negotiations.

Posted by: Pratterworthy on June 1, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Bill Kristol, one of the founding fathers of the Iraq war debacle, keeps talking and offers "solutions" for some of the other foreign policy crises left behind by the Bush-Cheney cabal. What Kristol has to say should be an important guide for Obama.

All Obama needs to do is do the exact opposite of whatever Kristol suggests.


Posted by: SteveT on June 1, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed, tn million...twenty million, tops. But Mr. President, we cannot allow ourselves to have a manhood gap!

Posted by: LittlePig on June 1, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it's dubious: it's Rasmussen.

As for Kristol, does he even think what China would do under the circumstances?

Whichleads me to my ast point: this is all in China's hands; when they get angry enough at Pyongyang this will stop.

Posted by: Randy Paul on June 1, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

a Rasmussen poll ...found

Equals "only fools believe".

Posted by: Danp on June 1, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the Agreed Framework was worked out under Clinton (not Carter) and was widely, if not universally, held to be working up until the Bush II administration decided to choke it. (To be fair, the Bush administration claimed that North Korea had admitted to cheating on the framework, which North Korea denies. Let's see: Bush Administration claims to have knowledge of secret nuclear weapons material no one else can confirm or find. Wow, wonder if that could go wrong in any way...)

I'll admit that I don't have any easy answers for the President, but Kristol (spiritual descendant of Bomb-em-to-Hell LeMay) offers nothing but an adolescent temper tantrum... in other words, exactly the same idiocy that -- to our regret -- he managed to get the US to do in the early 2000s.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on June 1, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Well prattleworthy, what you must remember is that while the North Korean leadership is basically depraved by our standards, they are not in fact insane: they are dedicated to one thing and one thing only, which is the survival of the regime. They do not have any motive or means for military aggression. These (so far very crude) nuclear weapons and unreliable missiles are certainly capable of causing serious damage to South Korea or Japan, but there is no prospect -- zip, zilch, nada -- of their actually doing so, because they know perfectly well what the consequences would be.

The reason they undertake these provocative acts is essentially defensive: they saw what happened to Iraq, which did not have any means of military retaliation, and they're thinking along the same lines as the Iranians: if we want to deter U.S. aggression, we gotta get a bomb.

The U.S. is not in the center of this, nor is "the West." NK's neighbors -- China, S. Korea, Russia, Japan -- are the ones with an immediate interest, and it is really their issue to deal with. The U.S. should back approaches that its allies endorse and that appear consistent with its own interests. But why the United States would be tasked with attacking N. Korea when none of its neighbors wants the U.S. to do so is totally inexplicable. A nonsensical proposition.

Posted by: cervantes on June 1, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

It may not be the US that is best positioned to take action against North Korea. The Chinese, for example, can do much more. They can't like having a crazy with nuclear weapons on their border, and further provocative action by North Korea can mess up all the business China hopes to do in the region.

The North Koreans are hugely dependent on the Chinese. If the Chinese cut the North Koreans off, all the bluster in the world won't feed them.

Posted by: Jim Ramsey on June 1, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

it's now obvious the North Koreans never had any intentions of living up to its end of the bargain.

Funny, there was commentary on the weekend that what provoked the North Koreans was that the other parties had not lived up to their end of the bargain: they were supposed to provide Korean with 600 million tons of alternative fuel and have only provided 400 million tons.

If I had destroyed my plutonium processing plant in return for this fuel, I might be a little upset at being made a fool of...

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on June 1, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Everyone knows that Kristol & Hume & Gingrich & their fellow neocons are 'serious people' and thus should have their words taken seriously.

Everyone knows that no matter what the question, 'War is the Answer'.

In response to Pratterworthy: I was under the impression that North Korea was 'more or less' living up to its agreements reached in 1994 with the Clinton administration. At least until Bush became president and totally breached the agreements. 'More or less' because they did stop processing weapons grade fuel during the 1990's. 'More or less' because the evidence is that the U.S. breached the agreements in major ways before the North Koreans did.

Yes, the North Koreans always have wacko leaders. I guess that makes the difference from us in that we do not 'always' have wacko leaders like George W. Bush.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on June 1, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's very simple -- if the US launches a strike on NKor, millions of people will die and the worlds 13th largest economy will be destroyed.

Do these troglodytes not understand that NKor has the fifth largest standing army in the world, and that Seoul is just south of the DMZ?

I have an idea -- how about we drop Bill Kristol onto NKor?

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

These idiots do realize that Seoul (pop. 24 million) is within spitting distance of the border. Well inside the range of modern artillery and short range missles. Military commanders in both S Korea and the US acknowledge that if does come down to a shooting match there is no way they can destroy N Korean artillery emplacements fast enough to keep them from desvasting much of S Korea's capital.

N Korea's army (much like Iraq's) may be a paper tiger that can not stand against a prolonged engagement with the US or S Korea but it can and almost certainly will do a ton of damage on the way down.

Posted by: thorin-1 on June 1, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the Agreed Framework was worked out under Clinton (not Carter)

I know when it was worked out; however, most of the credit goes to Carter for the agreement (fairly or unfairly).

They do not have any motive or means for military aggression.

Maybe. Maybe not. They have plenty of motive to act as they do, as you point out. But the problem comes from the fact that the weapons they test eventually end up overseas, in the hands of fellow pariah nations like Iran.

North Korea makes a pretty penny on counterfeiting, drug sales and the export of controlled missile and nuclear technology. While their missile and nuclear program might not stand up to ours, they are exporting what they have and as they develop better and more reliable systems, they will most likely be sold to other countries for much-needed hard currency.

And yes, when looking from the lens of national security, the Hermit Kingdom might not seem like much of a threat. But in terms of the devastation they are causing on the people living within North Korea's borders, I can't think of a more dire situation.

You can bet China and Russia really don't care if North Korea starves its people or sells controlled weaponry to our enemies.

The question is: should we care?

Posted by: Pratterworthy on June 1, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The North Koreans are hugely dependent on the Chinese. If the Chinese cut the North Koreans off, all the bluster in the world won't feed them.

Right, because starving the NKoreans is going to add more, not less stability to the peninsula....

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I was under the impression that North Korea was 'more or less' living up to its agreements reached in 1994 with the Clinton administration

More or less means no, they weren't living up to their agreements.

Let's turn this around: do you think that North Korea would live up to its bargain if/when Obama deals with them?

How long would it last, until North Korea needs/wants something else?

To me, it seems like North Korea plays a great game of foreign policy blackmail: blusters, launches a missile or tests a nuclear device. Signs a treaty saying they won't do it again in exchange for X. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Posted by: Pratterworthy on June 1, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

We probably could implement this brilliant Kristol plan, if we just had some military resources left to do so.

We have two wars going right now. Even more and I think we could technically call this WW III.

Posted by: Franklin on June 1, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

More or less means no, they weren't living up to their agreements.

How about a little honesty here, ok? The US didn't live up to their part of the agreement, so NKor withdrew from the agreement.

So let's turn this around: do you think that the US would live up to its bargain if/when Obama deals with them?

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'd be in favor of shooting Bill Kristol at the Korean missiles. :)

Posted by: N.Wells on June 1, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

How about a little honesty here, ok? The US didn't live up to their part of the agreement, so NKor withdrew from the agreement.

I'd love a little honesty:

http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/agreedframework

Please find one instance where the U.S. caused the Agreed Framework to break down. It's quite clear that the North Koreans had no desire to live up to their end of the bargain.

Posted by: Pratterworthy on June 1, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

These idiots do realize that Seoul (pop. 24 million) is within spitting distance of the border. Well inside the range of modern artillery and short range missles.

And one of the things implicit in Kristol's line of argument is that the South Koreans have no say in our policy, even though South Korea will have to provide most of the military muscle if it comes down to a war. But Kristol and his ilk think we ought to bomb North Korea over South Korea's objections.

Posted by: rea on June 1, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

We give a darn about what Kristol thinks, because?

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 1, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

The U.S. on Sunday issued a statement saying that a "nuclear-armed North Korea" is unacceptable.

I wonder how many people in the world consider a nuclear-armed U.S. unacceptable?

Posted by: Anonny on June 1, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Watching these guys talk about North Korea's nukes is like watching someone on Oprah. If you're going to consider it seriously, you have to weigh the consequences -- specifically, in this case, what might North Korea do in retaliation, and is it possible to deter or check those responses? If you don't lay this out systematically, you're just blowing off steam. Which might make you feel better but doesn't do anything about the problem.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on June 1, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Please find one instance where the U.S. caused the Agreed Framework to break down

Under the agreement, the US, through the KEDO body set up by the agreement in 1994, promised to supply 500,000t of fuel oil per year, to make up for the loss of power from the closed reactors until two promised "safe" light-water reactors could be finished. But the Republican congress cut the funds to KEDO, which they viewed as "appeasement", such that by 1999 only 1.9mt had been delivered, not the 2.5mt promised.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/gao/rc00020t.pdf#page=5

The US also broke its promise to negotiate the end of economic and political sanctions, and its promise to supply the safe reactors.

Posted by: ajay on June 1, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

So let us buy Mr. Kristol a surplus Su-25 (need that plausible deniability), teach him how to fly it, load it up with air to ground ordnance and tell him to have at it. If it's that important to start a war, I'm sure he wouldn't mind putting his OWN butt on the line for a change.

Posted by: Jeff on June 1, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

It's quite clear that the North Koreans had no desire to live up to their end of the bargain.

Whether they desired to or not, the Norks actually did live up to their end of the bargain until Bush reneged.

Posted by: Gregory on June 1, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Well prattleworthy, what you must remember is that while the North Korean leadership is basically depraved by our standards, they are not in fact insane: they are dedicated to one thing and one thing only, which is the survival of the regime. They do not have any motive or means for military aggression. These (so far very crude) nuclear weapons and unreliable missiles are certainly capable of causing serious damage to South Korea or Japan, but there is no prospect -- zip, zilch, nada -- of their actually doing so, because they know perfectly well what the consequences would be.

kim jong-il's health is failing, and his successor is not clear. the current aggressive antics could be the work of competing factions or children seeking favor. that dynamic invalidates, or at least calls into question, all assumptions of rational behavior.

Posted by: chris on June 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

thx for the assist, ajay

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Whether they desired to or not, the Norks actually did live up to their end of the bargain until Bush reneged.

No, they didn't. Read my previous link.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/gao/rc00020t.pdf#page=5

Looks like that document also accuses the North Koreans of using the fuel oil for illicit purposes when the monitoring equipment was "broken."

Nor does your link say the Republican Congress did anything wrong; it simply stated that when commodity and freight prices rose, the amount of oil being sent went down. This is predictable since prices are fluid and government spending is not. At no time did the U.S. government ever reneg on its deals.

Again, the problem with this agreement, as with every agreement in the past, is North Korea.

I hope Obama takes this into consideration when dealing with a fanatical regime that systematically starves its own people.

Posted by: Pratterworthy on June 1, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

But Kristol and his ilk think we ought to bomb North Korea over South Korea's objections.

Unfortunately, the current SKor President is a hawk with some very hawkish supporters who wouldn't object to war with the North. Which is all the more reason that the Obama admin needs to tread lightly.

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the current SKor President is a hawk with some very hawkish supporters who wouldn't object to war with the North.

As long as they were not in Seoul when it happened...

Posted by: Gregory on June 1, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

1. Kristol is an idiot and why he keeps appearing on my teevee is one of life's persistent mysteries. 2. I don't think North Korea is a rational actor who will respond predictably to whatever carrots or sticks the US offers. At this point, whatever they do is really more about their own internal politics and the power struggles going on behind the scenes in the wake of Kim's recent health problems. That said, where the US can have some leverage is in pursuing a not-insane tack (read: the opposite of whatever Kristol or Gingrich recommend) that will encourage China to use it's influence over the DRK without thinking that it would either destabilize the Korean peninsula or give the US and Japan pretext to intensify their military presence in the region.

That seems to be what Obama is doing. The place to look for a reaction is not in North Korea, but in China, which is the only country with an even limited ability to pull some strings in Pyonyang.

Posted by: jonas on June 1, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I have an idea -- how about we drop Bill Kristol onto NKor?

Subjecting North Korea to Kristol's non-stop smirky prattle would lead to immediate capitulation.

I say it is worth a go.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on June 1, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Largely ignoring North Korea has been working out rather well for everyone aside from the North Koreans and those who draw paychecks (or ad revenues) from General Dynamics, Halliburton, and Raytheon.

I mean, we could take the defense industries word for it that TODAY is the day that SOMETHING must be done about it, but that would be no different than releasing secret memo's that Dick Cheney wrote to make himself look good.

At the end of the day, it's Obama's call in either case, and my President seems to know when he's being gamed.

Stop being terrified by bad poker players making bad bluffs, or they will get all your money.

Posted by: mdh on June 1, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I am baffled. Why does anyone listen to anything Kristol says?

It's like a NASCAR race. Will the cars crash into each other? Will the vein on Kristol's forhead explode? Same thing.

Posted by: mdh on June 1, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

No need to attack North Korea, just shoot their missiles out of the sky. We've got a program to do that, right? It will work flawlessly--I have no doubt.

Posted by: CAfresh on June 1, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

What if democratic members of the house & senate suggested the same thing as Bill Kristol? It could very well be instantly trashed as a horrible idea - just more liberal foolish spending.

Posted by: bridget on June 1, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Ruh roh, that post could be misconstrued. I am coming at this as a dem. It is just fun to think about libs touting positions that Kristol says just to see if anyone on the right would then rail against that position. Just a dream. Sorry to take up space.

Posted by: bridget on June 1, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ruh roh, that post could be misconstrued. I am coming at this as a dem. It is just fun to think about libs touting positions that Kristol says just to see if anyone on the right would then rail against that position. Just a dream. Sorry to take up space.

Posted by: bridget on June 1, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Idiots like these would get us all killed. Walking around in a nuclear haze they would claim, "We sure showed them".

Shows how pathetic our TV shows have become that idiots like these are given a voice.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 1, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Nor does your link say the Republican Congress did anything wrong; it simply stated that when commodity and freight prices rose, the amount of oil being sent went down. This is predictable since prices are fluid and government spending is not. At no time did the U.S. government ever reneg on its deals.

The Agreement didn't call for a certain amount of money spent on oil -- it called for a certain amount of oil. The GOP Congress underfunded the program so that the US did not meet its obligations under the Agreement.

Anyway, you appear to be a troll who refuses to acknowledge the basic reality of the situation, so bye-bye.

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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